Thursday, December 27, 2012

Vinegar! 17 Amazing uses you can't live without!

About a year ago I was frustrated and looking for a way to get my plastic storage containers clean. I noticed they had a greasy slimy feel to them, and no matter how many times I washed them, it would not go away. I set out on a mission to save myself some money since these are not cheap to replace, especially all at the same time.  

I searched ways to get plastic containers clean, and found many websites that suggested using white distilled vinegar. I followed the directions on one site that said wash the container and then wipe down with rag and undiluted white vinegar. It worked!  I have since taken to just adding the vinegar to a sink load of dishes and find that it works just as well.

Who would have thought that there was more to vinegar than using it in salads and dying Easter eggs!  Here are just a few of the ways I have used vinegar around my house.  Do a search for uses of vinegar you may be surprised too!

  1. Add 1/2 c white distilled vinegar to a sink load of dirty dishes and fill with sink with hot water. It really helps to get that oily, greasy film feeling off your dishes and plastic.
  2. Clean counter tops with straight vinegar. I've left a rag soaked with vinegar sitting atop a kool-aid stain and it helped to lighten it. It did not completely get rid of the stain, but it is so light you can barely see it. I have to really look for it.
  3. I add water and vinegar in equal parts to clean the inside of my fridge. Helps with spills, just leave the rag laying on the spill. It also helps freshen the fridge and get rid of some funky smells!
  4. Full strength undiluted vinegar  and a sponge with a scrubber helps clean the stove hood and fan. This may take a little time, work in small areas. Mine was quite grubby.
  5. A cup of undiluted vinegar in a load of laundry that was forgotten in washing machine gets rid of the damp and mildew smell.
  6. I put a cup of vinegar in the pot from the coffee maker and fill the rest of the way up with hot water and let it sit at least a half hour. Empty it, and wipe inside with a cloth and then rinse. This loosens up and helps remove the coffee stains and deposits.
  7. I also add 1 cup of vinegar to the water reservoir and run it through to help with deposits and freshen the machine.
  8. when you have stickers or labels that won't come off from non porous surfaces you can soak a rag in vinegar and leave it laying on the area if possible. It should come off pretty easily. * This really helps get glue residue off glass and mirrors.
  9. Use a solution of equal parts water and vinegar to wipe down your shower curtain liner. I usually just drop it into the tub with vinegar and hot water, come back, wipe it down and rinse. 
  10. Wipe down shower walls and tub with undiluted vinegar to  help removed grime and scum. Rinse and repeat if necessary.
  11. I used diluted vinegar to wipe down the faucets in the bathroom and kitchen. It cleans off soap and toothpaste residue, and helps keep them smelling fresh.
  12. To get rid of mildewy or stale odors wipe down walls and doors with undiluted vinegar and a rag.
  13. Use full strength vinegar to wipe down doorknobs to kill germs.
  14. Add a cup of vinegar to a tub of hot water and add plastic baby toys to disinfect. 
  15. You can add vinegar to boiling water and add baby bottles to disinfect.
  16. If your scissors have become sticky or gunky you can wipe them down with a rag dipped in vinegar. This is one of my favorites!
  17. Use vinegar on a rag to clean the inside of the windshield in your automobile. 
There are literally hundreds of ways to use vinegar. These are the ones I have tried and  can verify work.  I am sure there are some that I have forgotten and if I remember them I will add them to this post. 

I encourage you to check out websites and books that offer the many uses for vinegar. I buy a gallon jug of vinegar when I go shopping and it usually last a month and half. I use it anytime I need to clean grimy, slimy, sticky or smelly things around the house. I tell anyone and every one I can about vinegar as often as I get a chance! Try it and you will too!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Children's Party and Crafts at Simpson United Methodist Church

In a short 2 and half weeks I planned a Christmas party for church members and neighborhood kids. It was quite an endeavor to take on myself. I've never planned or had a Christmas party before, and honestly I've never even been to one. I was handed the reins and allowed to design what I thought would be an awesome party if I were a kid again. I was fortunate to have a ton of  donated toys, gloves, hats, and scarves. There was 2 huge boxes from Toys from Tots, a huge donation from the local firefighters and another church was extremely generous and donated hundreds of pairs of gloves, hats and toys! It was overwhelming. I spent many countless hours wrapping presents and making lists.

I made a list and checked it twice!

Many of the presents already wrapped


Toys for Tots.. so generous!

Stored and waiting for the party

Over the span of 3 separate days I wrapped over 300 toys, hats, gloves and scarves. All together it totaled 23 hours.  I enjoyed every minute of it. There was such a peaceful quiet that I do not get at home. My family calls me the present Nazi because I am a little OCD about how the presents are wrapped.  Which is ironic since I spent the first half of my despising wrapping presents and was infamous in my family for handing someone a gift still in the bag I brought it home in. 

Friday before the party I set up the tables and decorated the fellowship hall. I separated everything by age and sex and labeled everything.


Nice view of all of the tables


I had this set up so it would be quick and easy to get the kids through. The table in back is all hats and gloves.

These are goody bags I put together. They had candy canes, lollipops, pencil, eraser, and a notepad.  Yes, I drew and colored each and every one of these! 

Decorated and ready to party!

Somehow I misplaced all the other pictures of the decorations I had. 

I came up with a couple crafts for the kids to do.

Angels made from coffee filter, metallic pipe cleaners, ribbon and lollipops. 

Star Ornaments. Beads, pipe cleaners. Has to be one of the easiest ornaments to make.

I made this one with the metallic pipe cleaner for my Christmas tree.

Reindeer "hat"  I spent 3 hours cutting all these antlers out. The kids loved this!

Elf Ears "hat". Much easier to cut out, only took about an hour. LOL

Foam bookmarks, and foam stickers. Easy. The parents hung around this table and did this while the kids were running around doing other crafts.

Every one loves guessing games! How many do you think are there? We had only one kid who was close. There were 61 peppermints. 

We had 5 kids come close, but no one got the right count! Luckily had extra prizes. There were 28 candy canes. 

Birthday Card for Jesus. Everyone signed it! The kids and parents loved the idea.

Lunch line

First lucky few to get their lunch

Love the antlers!

Nom Nom

I unfortunately forgot to take pictures while the party was happening. I was busy making sure the crafts were going well, the kids were being fair with the guessing games and generally doing the meet and greet. I had a wonderful time and the kids loved every thing! 

I hope to help with parties at the church in the future. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

It's all for the kids

     I have wanted to do something with the kids at the church I am attending. I wanted to a craft or something interesting for them to take home for Christmas.  I was told they were not going to do anything for the kids; I figured I could make a craft with them and have a little party at the same time. The very next week I go to church to find they have changed the date I was supposed to do the craft to an earlier date and now they are having a party for a the kids the Saturday before Christmas. Darn it, I just wrote out the invitations the night before. So, I go ahead and do the crafts with the kids ( which they loved!). 

     That night we have our monthly community meal and some members from another church are there and I am introduced to them. (I’ll call my church lady J) J introduces me and is telling them about the craft I did with the kids. The ladies from the other church offer to come and help with the party (which at this point I am still sulking and silently decided I want nothing to do with it). So J is gushing about how fabulous it is going to be and how I have come up with 5-6 crafts for the kids for the party. WHAT? Where the heck did that come from?

     There is nothing I hate more than being volunteered to do something without being told, asked or at least being warned. I was sitting there with the look of a deer in headlights, what could I say? I didn’t want to embarrass J, so I’m like, yeah... 5 or 6.  The other church lady I’ll call G is so excited, she offers to bring some other members of her church over to help. Oh my God!! Feeling trapped, I’m looking for any exit to get away from this table. How did I get roped into 5-6 games for a party I wasn’t planning on going to because my feelings were hurt.  I’ve always had a problem saying no.  Since I wanted to do something with the kids I guess I’m okay with it.

     Last Sunday I had a meeting with J about the party. The pastor was supposed to be there, but he doesn’t show up for anything but Sunday service, then he is out! Part time employee, I guess that’s how he looks at it.. nothing extra.  So, anyhow she and I are discussing plans for the party, the presents, games, and crafts.  She then tells me she is having surgery the next day and will be out of commission for about a week or more.  She is looking to me to pretty much plan and pull this thing off.  I’ll get to the kicker and best part in a minute.

      We received 2 huge boxes of toys from the Toys for Tots program.  We also received donations for G’s church of toys and 15 huge bags of clothes, socks, underwear, gloves etc.  Unfortunately there are no clothes for girls, toddlers or infants. There are also only about 20 toys for girls, again nothing for toddler or infants.  J has asked the other church if they can maybe help out with balancing things out.  I will say it’s a little weird to be in a church that is a charity for another church.  It is a very small church in a very poor neighborhood and more than half the members are 75+ years old and have been going to this church 50+years. There is no choir, no Sunday school, no youth activites. I am trying to do something to help the kids who attend as well as reach out to the kids in the neighborhood generally.

Be the change you want to see. In this neighborhood, these kids have absentee parents, drug and alcohol dependant parents, grandmothers who are tired and worn out raising them. These kids see everyday what the weight of being poor does to a person. They see no way out, they have no one to show them there is good, and there is a way.  I am one person, but I firmly believe that if you lead, they will follow the example set before them.  There is one particular girl who is right up on me, every time I turn around she is there. She just wants to talk, she is thirsty for attention. She is 11. As my grandmother would say, she is on me like white on rice!

     On Monday I spent the whole day at the church alone wrapping presents.  I accidently set off the alarm, how embarrassing! I spent 8 hours and wrapped a total of 127 presents.  I assigned each one a number, description, age and whether boy or girl. On Wednesday I went back and catalogued all the clothes and wrapped more toys. I spent a few hours wrapping socks, underwear, hats and gloves. So as right now there is a total of 142 toys and 47 of the socks etc.

     I now have to come up with not only crafts, but also games for the kids to play. J said 10 and younger, although I don’t know how that will work since most of the kids who come to church are between 11 and 17.  She told me to expect 50+ kids. Wowser!  Games and crafts for 50+ kids. I am not Annie Sullivan!! I am no miracle worker.  I personally had planned to give the kids little gift bags.. when I thought it was going to be 15-20 kids. Nothing special really a brown lunch sack I decorated, a small trinket like an eraser, pencils or small toy, and some homemade cookies and perhaps an apple or orange.  Now I have made approx 70 bags and I don’t think I will be able to afford the apples or oranges.  That’s a lotta cookies! I started making them yesterday. I have 10 days to make umpty dump dozen cookies, finish with the presents and clothes, figure out crafts, games and decorations! All while still attending to my family, cooking meals, baking cookies for home and crocheting scarves for the homeless shelter.  Ugh, and helping out at the food pantry at the church.  On top of it all, I am still foster a mother cat and her 3 kittens who are needy and need to be fed every 4 hours or so. I am tired!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

C is for Cookie

This month is all about the cookies. Chocolate chip, peanut butter, sugar.. the list is endless. I am not a baker.  My cookies have a tendency to come out flat, dry and flavorless. I admit I can make a good zucchini bread, but for cookies the only cookie I make good is Kolacky cookies. It's a simple recipe and one my grandmother made every year for the fall and winter holidays. They are time consuming only because the dough makes so many of them. We love them and they don't last long. They are delicious!

For the Allrecipe Allstar program our tasks this months is to make cookies using Toll House baking chips. I've already made one of the recipes.

They came out looking pretty decent.. not a lot of flavor. I followed the recipe exact! It did have a nice light flavor of orange. Everyone else liked them. So I guess it was successful!

If you read my previous post you know I am struggling right now. Luckily I have been gathering ingredients for the last 2 months so I could make cookies and bake other goodies this month. I have enough to make all the cookies I can and still have enough ingredients to make bread and dough etc.

I really liked this, but thought they didn't come out all that pretty. It tastes just like fruitcake. LOL who would have thought? My husband complained they didn't taste right. I made some miniatures in the mini muffin tin. He loved it. I also just took the rest of the dough and just went ahead and made a loaf. 

 When I was helping decorate the inside of the church I was given 3 pie pumpkins and I offered to make some pumpkin pies for a potluck. I have to do that today. I found the best crust recipe on Allrecipes. 

I could swear I have a picture of the crust before the filling, knowing me, I didn't download the picture yet.  Delicious looking? Yes!


Some how my cookie sheet became warped. It is not flat anymore. It looks like someone tried to twist it! So I am off to buy another one. Once I get home and make more cookies, I will post more.

These are my daughter's favorite cookie! These came out a little more firm and cake like than in the past. There were still delicious! 

These were part of the December activities. These were really good, I did not use the mini marshmallows, but we did add chocolate chips.  I took these to the community meal at the church and they were one of the first desserts to go!

I am an Allrecipes Allstar Brand Ambassador (a voluntary position) and I am not compensated for my work with Products received from advertisers are only used for experienced-based reviews on Bundts n' Bowls. The reviews, content and opinions expressed in this blog are purely the sole opinions of    T. Graham.

Thanks for reading!

Running against the wind

I find myself a month behind in rent, a shut off notice on the gas bill and no money for groceries. I have food enough to carry us for a month, perhaps a little less.  I am frightened and worried. My husband received a $25.00 gift card  for doing a focus group. Of course, it is for the most expensive store around. Which means $25.00 isn't going to buy much. There are the three of us. Myself, my daughter and my husband. He is a meat eater, it's not a meal until it contains some kind of meat.

We have had it hard over the years, but is is about to be the worst than it has been in many years. My daughter and I have lost our insurance. I take several medications, with one of them costing nearly $600.  If you add all of them together it totals about $1000.  We survive on $1346. a month. I have friends who pay more than that for rent a month.

I think we have handled this situation pretty well for the most part. Guilt over my daughter not being able to have everything she wants or needs is the hardest part.  Deciding what bill to pay and buying food seems to be a true juggling act.  We dropped a ball and are faced with $800. worth of shut off notices.

It is December - a dreaded time of year for me. Filled with embarrassment and sorrow, when my daughter puts on a brave face and pretends everything is okay. Last year a woman that I've known since elementary school bought Christmas for us. She sent clothes, a music CD for my daughter and personal items, not only for my daughter  but also for myself and my husband. It was much more than I would have ever expected anyone I haven't seen in over 20 years to do. It was very humbling and a kind act. I did no ask for it, I would never do that. And I still cannot express my deep and complete gratitude to her.

This year is no different yet very different from past years. My heart is broken along with my spirit. We struggle, like so many others and most of the time do so without complaint. No, this is not how I envisioned my life. But it has and could be worse. I have been homeless, I have eaten at the soup kitchens and I have had to survive through a lot of things of my own making and some not.

I put up our ugly little Christmas tree, I decorate it with no enthusiasm. I hung the garland in the archways and a wreath hangs on the door.  But there is little joy. There will be no excitement on Christmas morning. It will be just another day.  I will make as many gifts as I can for my daughter, a scarf, a bracelet and maybe a throw with the yarn I have left. I had bought her a sweater, a pair of pants and a hat last time I had a little money. She told me to wrap them and put it under the tree.  I wish I could go back and make different choices. I know each and every one that lead me to this place. Sadly I knew at the time I was making the wrong decisions.

SO, back to the reason for writing this post. I have went through every cupboard and I have written down every box and can of food I have. I now have the task of figuring out how to feed us for as long as possible. I have no idea when I can buy more groceries.

There are two thinks in this world I think area more important that most anything. Having a roof over your head and food in your belly. I know there are people who have even less than me and they are happy to have it. And believe me when I say, I am truly happy for all I do have.   As I work to make a filling menu with what i have available, I am going to post any recipes I use. Maybe I can help someone else out there who have a similar situation.

Tonight I made Dirty Rice.  Not really a recipe, I've made a few times and always different. Tonight was very simple.

Dirty Rice

1lb ground beef
1 onion, diced
1/2 Green pepper, diced
2 beef bouillon cubes
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
 2 green onions, sliced in rings
couple dashes cayenne (optional to taste)
1 cup water
3 cups cooked rice

Browned the meat, drained any fat off, added onion and bell pepper, all the spices, green onion and cup of water.  Add cooked rice, mix well and add salt and pepper to taste.  I didn't not put an amount for the salt, I don't cook with it. We just add salt after we get our servings.

Really easy. Pretty tasty.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rocky Mountain Oysters... Dinner Danglers!

Rocky Mountain Oysters, Swinging Beef,  Montana Tendergroins, Dinner Danglers, Moo Marbles (this one made my daughter giggle) These are just a few of the nicknames I found when searching the web for recipes.

On a quest to try as many new things as possible, I checked off one more on the list. Today I bought a pair of Rocky Mountain Oysters from the butcher. I was there to pick up my beef heart and kidneys and it was only the second time I have ever seen them there, so I figured why not.  My daughter immediately wrinkled her nose and said she wouldn't be trying that. My husband (who's like Mikey.. he'll try anything) Said with a shrug "sure why not".

When I was standing there at the counter waiting for my order to be wrapped an elderly woman came up and was picking up an order for the same thing. I asked her how she prepared the "oysters". She said to boil them first then fry and make a gravy. Everything I had read was saying to fry them, but I had not read anywhere to boil them.  She and I talked a while longer while we waited and I decided I would try the method she told me about and go ahead and boil them.

OK. So I sometimes forget to take pictures until it's too late for that step. I do the best I can.. my memory isn't always so good. Here's what I did..

This is what the "oysters" look like when you get them from the butcher. 

He had already made small cuts in the membrane that needs to be peeled off.  I did not peel this until after I boiled it. I read that there are really easy to peel if they are frozen and you peel as it thaws.  I will try that next time.  

I just filled a pot with water to cover the oysters and set it to boil.

After I took them out and was able to peel them. Peeling was not so easy and I ended up having to cut off some of the membrane.  I sliced them up, I will say that they were considerably smaller after they are boiled which was a surprise. 

I seasoned flour with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. 

Yes, we are Buttertons. I cook with butter whenever I can. It is probably the most unhealthy thing I do.  I added some olive oil to make it healthy =)  (I had too much butter and ended up not using this at all, but just a tiny smidge out of this pan.)

Dirtied another pan to keep from using too much butter. 

This is with the gravy I made. Sorry the picture is so sloppy it was hard to keep the hubby's fingers out of it long enough to take a picture. 

I didn't use a recipe, didn't measure anything. It came out pretty good for a first time. Honestly it tastes like a cross between liver and beef kidney (which has a texture of chicken gizzards) if you've ever had that.  I wouldn't say there is anything special about it other than it being Moo Marbles. LOL.

For the price and the amount of meat it turned out to not be cost efficient and I probably won't make it again.  But hey! I got to check off one more thing off the list of stuff to try. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

No Kidney punches here!

      My family is constantly on the look out for new recipes using meats and/or ingredients we have never eaten before. I have to say it has turned out pretty well so far. I know that some of the dishes we try are standard dishes in other parts of the country or around the world in other countries. 
     Before I continue, I would like to add a disclaimer, it is not my intention to offend anyone in any way. This is solely my opinions based on my personal experiences. I know that some people are extremely sensitive and I apologize in advance.

     Being one half of an inter-racial relationship has always been interesting in the kitchen. My husband grew up in a household that regularly ate pigs feet and chittlins', souse (head cheese), pigs ears and hog maws. I have since tried all of these things since we've been married. Some I like, others not so much!  My husband had never tried what his mother called "white people" food. Rice-a-roni, green bean casserole,  stove top stuffing, cabbage with ham and noodles and Corned beef and cabbage and many many more!  He has tried these and likes or loves some of them. There are somethings I know I will never get him to eat. Tuna casserole..well any dish that contains the word casserole (other than green bean casserole), anything containing tater tots, fish sticks, cheese wiz, or marshmallow fluff. 

     OK, so back to kidneys.  I am blessed to live 5 minutes from the West side Market here in Cleveland, Ohio. It has been standing for 100 years, they just celebrated the anniversary.  There is a butcher there that sells beef.  The market is only open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturday. Vince, my butcher takes off Mondays so he can cut his meat. He gets his big sides of beef and will even take special orders in advance. If you ever get to Cleveland, be sure to look him up. His stand is named after him.  Any how.. When I visited him last he had a Beef Kidney sitting in his display case. I bought it and began looking for recipes to use it in. Every recipe I found was for steak and kidney pie (which I do plan on trying). Recipe after recipe was pretty much the same.  I asked on the Buzz for suggestions and got some good answers. Don had a couple ideas that I really liked since it wasn't a pie. I love reading his answers to posts, and I was hoping he would answer mine. 

     I soaked the kidney in milk over night to draw out any not so pleasant taste. I am going to be adding the recipe to my recipe box and when I do I will post it.  I cut up the kidney and had some really tender thin steaks I cut in strips. I sauteed them in butter and olive oil, added some sliced onions and then made a gravy. I served this over rice and it was delicious!! I was worried about the texture of the kidneys since I sometimes have problems with different textures. It was perfect. Firm, not mushy or tough. It truly is something everyone should try.  The taste is pleasant and the steak goes very well with it. Next time I will try the Kidney and Steak pie.

Cleaning and prepping the kidney for its milk bath.

Doesn't that look good!

It sure did taste good!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Our Pre-Thanksgiving Feast

My husband and daughter agreed that we should do something other than the "traditional" Thanksgiving meal. The suggested Mexican/Hispanic food.  We've been talking about it for a couple days and have decided on Chicken and cheese enchiladas, a taco bar, Spanish rice, corn,  7 layer dip and chips and churros for dessert. I guess that sounds pretty good.  Although  I am still trying to deal with not having the regulars.

I had already bought all the ingredients for dinner. I made our not Thanksgiving dinner tonight. It was good! I made green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing and chicken (we never buy turkeys).  I have a ham still in the freezer, and I will use that sometime this month or even keep if for Christmas. If they aren't going to try and take that holiday away from me too!

I had a lot going on this evening so I forgot to take pictures as I was preparing the food. I did get some pictures after it was served.

I took the opportunity to make three of the recipes I needed for the November activities for Allrecipes Allstars.  I am sure I will be making some sweets and I will add them and their recipes when I make them.  I am glad I was able to have my "feast" even though it wasn't on Thanksgiving day. The day really isn't important, I got to sit down to a wonderful meal with my husband and daughter and enjoy talking about our day. For that I am Thankful! 

I am an Allrecipes Allstar Brand Ambassador (a voluntary position) and I am not compensated for my work with Products received from advertisers are only used for experienced-based reviews on Bundts n' Bowls. The reviews, content and opinions expressed in this blog are purely the sole opinions of    T. Graham.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

She had me at "Meep!"

Two years ago this month my daughter talked us into being foster parents at the local APL (animal protective league). We figured she would lose interest pretty quickly so we agreed. The day we went in for orientation was the day we brought home our first foster. 

She was all white, a tiny matted kitten.. She'd been found in a basement and was severely underweight and had a bad case of diarrhea which did not help.  She was less than half a pound. They needed someone to take her for a couple of weeks to "fatten" her up. (that made me giggle and think of Hansel and Gretel) 

Looked pretty fluffy huh? Not so much!

When we got her home we wanted to give her a bath to clean off the feces and try to get some of the knots out. Her fur was speckled with dried blood from being infested with fleas. The APL had given something that killed all the fleas.  We got the sink ready and the water the right temperature, but none of us were ready for what we would see. I felt sick to my stomach and my eyes burned with tears. This cat was nothing but bones. Her hip bones stuck out and all you could see was every bone in her rib cage and the skin almost seemed to sink in between them. She was shivering so hard and nothing seemed to be helping to get her warm. I eventually put her against my skin and kept my hand over the towel that was covering her. It took for what seemed like forever for her to stop shivering.

We found she was too weak to hold her head up by herself. She was unable to walk and if she tried she just fell over and laid there not able to get up.  I hand fed this kitten and had to give her water from a syringe. She started to improve almost immediately. She started getting stronger and by the second day she was able to lift her head. I would sit for hours with her laying on my chest, her nuzzled up under my chin. She even tried to take a few steps, wobbly but she was able to do it.

Unfortunately, on the third day the diarrhea was so bad it took her right back to being too weak to lift her own head. We took her back to the APL to have her checked out. They hooked her up to an IV because she was dehydrated.  They asked if I could try again and take her home with me. They explained that sometimes no matter what we try some of the animals don't make it. Some are just too weak to survive. My heart squeezed in my chest. This kitten I called Meeper, because that was the only sound she could make... a meep, might not make it.  It was at that moment I wondered if I would be strong enough to do this. Could I?

We took her home. But unfortunately I was unable to give her the care she needed. I had to return her to the APL, and they sent her to an experienced foster parent. They assured me that it was nothing I had done wrong. It was not a good situation for our first foster.  

I found out two months later she was healthy and ready for adoption. They also discovered she was much older than they had thought at first. She was about 7-8 months old!! She was so small because she was starving to death. 

I go to see her, my "meeper" and hold her one last time before she was adopted.  She knew me, and she snuggled up under my chin and started to purr.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Hosting

I love Halloween parties! My birthday is in October and my parents liked to throw Halloween birthday parties. Now that I am older I still love a good Halloween party. I get most of my decorations from the Dollar Tree. I loved doing different types of crafts and painted quite a few wooden plaques and signs a few years ago. I always put fake spider webs up across the porch and I have some headstones I put out. I usually rake up some leaves and shape them into graves in front of the headstones. This year because of Sandy my graves were blown away. I also have two blow up ghosts that I hang on either side of the front steps.  I try to make it "gently" scary for the kids in the neighborhood. We have little kids next door and they still freak out a little over some of the decorations.

This year one we had some fun activities for the Allrecipes Allstar Brand Ambassador program.  I made caramel corn which everyone loved! Pizza pockets and chocolate filled crescents.  As part of our party we carved pumpkins. Some of our friends brought "witches fingers" it was the orange peanuts with a half of jellybean "glued" on the end. Another did the witches hats made using a cookie and hersheys kiss. We replaced bobbing for apples with making candle apples. Boy were those good!!! It's been years since I've eaten one and I had never made them before. 

There are so many ideas I have seen from other AR-ers and I can't wait to use some of the ideas or the recipes they have shared!

The hurricane disrupted some of the plans we had for Halloween. Our city postponed trick or treating until next week! Boo! It will give me time to get some discount candy!! lol.  We were without electricity for a few days, and my church postponed the food pantry scheduled for Oct 31 until Friday Nov. 2. I am thinking I would like to make some treats for the people who come. Maybe more of that caramel popcorn, but also I am thinking some granola bars. 

Everyone had a pretty good time this year. I enjoyed making all these things, and I got the bonus of getting to buy new cups with spiders and webs on them to add to the Halloween supplies.

I am an Allrecipes Allstar Brand Ambassador (a voluntary position) and I am not compensated for my work with Products received from advertisers are only used for experienced-based reviews on Bundts n' Bowls. The reviews, content and opinions expressed in this blog are purely the sole opinions of T. Graham.

Pumpkin Carving First

Every year we buy pumpkins to carve.  We live in an area that for whatever reasons kids do not trick or treat. We have tried over the years to sit out there with our bowl of candy expectantly waiting for all the little cowboys and princesses.. and nothing! Although we did have a woman about 50 years old try to get some candy. She had a bag and everything, no kids or grand kids  When my husband told her to "get outta here" she just shrugged and said, I had to try.

This year we were able to find pumpkins for less than $3. My daughter is usually pretty picky. She really likes the Mini pumpkins, which she is unusually good at carving. I can hardly see to do something so small.  They come out looking so cool! I'm not sure if anyone else even carves these mini pumpkins but if not, you should give it a try.  My hubby has to find the biggest, roundest pumpkin he can. I prefer tall, thin, smooth skinned pumpkins. It also has to have a nice long stem. Ooh.. that sounds like a personal ad for a picking up a pumpkin! This year C (daughter) and I had to settle on pumpkins that weren't our typical choices. E (hubby) of course was able to find one that fit his definition of a perfect carving pumpkin.

We put off carving the pumpkins for a couple weeks. It has rained what seems like every day this month! I'd guesstimate out of the 31 days, it has rained 22 of them.  We did have one 80 degree day, that broke records!  Anyhow, I was not feeling well on the day we decided to carve the pumpkins, so I decided I would take pictures of them carving. It's been a couple of years since we had a camera, so E's new phone has become my new camera. It is so cool! I can take a picture and immediately email it to myself. I can even take video on it, although I haven't figured out how to send that yet.  I'm no techno nerd, so this is the coolest thing I have ever seen.

C turned 16 this year - so she's all independent (sometimes) and she wanted to carve her pumpkin "herself" ( I usually cute the lid and help clean out the middle. )

We stopped buying those pumpkin carving kits a couple years ago, they are always so flimsy and the knife always bends or breaks.  So we use the weapons of destruction found in my kitchen.

This stopped my heart, and I held my breathe the entire time she was cutting. I couldn't say anything or it would have sent her into a teenage hissy fit. So I just took pictures and worked out the fasted route to the hospital in my head.

Love the face! Sure am I glad I got out of this slimy  duty this year!

More heart palpitations for mom. Why do they have to grow up? There is still a lump in my throat! 

Her finished product! It's a Cat!! She added whisker holes after the pic was taken.

Let me tell you about my husband. He is an over achiever when it comes to carving pumpkins. He grew up in a household that did not celebrate Halloween and he had never carved a pumpkin until he was with me. The first few pumpkins sported the traditional jack o' lantern face but over the years he has started to design his own faces.

I don't have a lot of pictures of him carving his pumpkin. I took quite a few of him sketching out the design and carving. But his camera is racist! I can't get a good picture of him for anything. We have black cats and can't get a picture of them either!

This is after he sketched and traced the design onto the pumpkin. Cheesey grin. 

This is the last picture I could get that was good enough to see him doing the pumpkin. Looking pretty cool.

Had to get C to hold the pumpkin for a pic.

As I said, I wasn't feeling so hot. I thought it would be quick and easy to put some big ol' alien eyes and a tiny nose. It came out really blah.. so I ended up adding a mouth to it. Now everyone tells me it looks like Jack from "Nightmare before Christmas". I had to look it up, I have never seen the movie before.

This is my finished Jack O' Lantern.

Hubbys finished Jack O Lantern

C's finished Jack O Lantern

All three (taken before I added my mouth)

We always have fun carving the pumpkins together.  Even though I did not feel well this years was good too.  My pumpkin smelled funky when I opened it, but I decided to carve it anyway. It's going outside so it didn't really matter. Well... Hurricane Sandy decided to make a little visit to Cleveland and it was crazy windy and rainy. They sat on my dining room table until I had to take them out last night. My pumpkin was already "dying" and had attracted fruit flies. Where they hell do they hang out? and how do they show up so quickly?  My poor pumpkin has made it to Halloween day. Glad it got here before his complete demise. Now he looks like a monster zombie pumpkin!